How to be Happy

By David Joel Miller.

How to Experience Happiness.

Do you have trouble feeling happy? This should be easy right? You would think there is nothing you should have to do to feel happy. Doesn’t it seem as if we should be able to find something, some experience that would make us happy? Then why are so many people looking and so few finding happiness?

The truth is that some of us don’t know happiness when we have it. Pain is easy to find and we always know unhappiness when we see it but happiness, well that is harder to be sure about. One minute it is there and the next it is gone.

In a past post, Why can’t we forget the painful past, I wrote about the reasons it is easier to remember pain than happiness. Remembering pain has an evolutionary value. It keeps us from making the same mistake over and over. You would think that happiness and pleasure should have the same evolutionary advantage, reminding us to do pleasant things over and over.

Pleasure seems to be rewarding. People will repeat behaviors to get more pleasure even when these actions are destructive. Things like addiction, behavioral excess, overspending and risky sexual activities are all temporarily rewarding even when they don’t result in long-term happiness.

Sharp emotions like pleasure and pain arrive quickly and unannounced. Some feelings are softer and gentler. Feelings like happiness and contentment swell up softly and slowly from our unconscious.

If you want more happiness you need to cultivate the experience of watching for its appearance and you need to look for it. Happiness is not a pushy emotion. It doesn’t force its way into your heart. It waits to be noticed and invited.

Did you ever go looking for a particular style of car, maybe a van or a hatchback? Before you began your search you didn’t see many of that model. Once you look, they are everywhere.

Happiness is like that. We need to consciously search for it.

Did you look for that car you wanted in the big box store or a department store? No of course not. You looked in places where that model of car might be sold.

So why do we look for happiness by chasing after short-term pleasure or running from pain? Happiness is the result of facing our troubles. It is also the direct product of acceptance. If we are never content with what we have, if we are always chasing more, then happiness gets passed by.

The allusion that if we catch pleasure we will be happy traps many. How easy it is to chase pleasure through the thicket of thorns. If we would just stand still and notice what we have perhaps the butterfly of happiness will land on our outstretched hand.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books


5 thoughts on “How to be Happy

  1. Pingback: Should you be happy? | counselorssoapbox

  2. Pingback: Discovering Happiness | counselorssoapbox

  3. Pingback: February is Feelings Month | counselorssoapbox

  4. Pingback: Discovering Happiness | counselorssoapbox

  5. Pingback: Do you believe these happiness lies ? | counselorssoapbox

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